I decided to look at how dragons have been done in film and tv to see how they’ve been portrayed and how their skin had been done. I also wanted to look at how the effects and aesthetic give an insight into personality and the history of the dragon.
The Desolation of Smaug
Everything about Smaug’s design is made to make him terrifying. His skin is full of grooves and looks really rough. The intensity in his eyes make him really scary. At Thorn (The red dragon on Eldest) is supposed to be an antagonistic dragon, he looks quite intense and scary so I would like to take inspiration from Smaug’s design for that cover.
Although a minor feature of the film and only seen in a very dark room, I really liked the dragon in Maleficent. The dragon is a transfigured crow that Maleficent transforms so he can protect her. I really like how his scales still look kind of like feathers as a nod to Diaval’s true crow form.
How to Train your Dragon
How to train your dragon has a variety of dragons with different skin types and features. This film does a really good job of matching the aesthetic of each dragon to its personality and movement. Toothless is a Night Fury so he’s supposed to be a huge, dark, flying shadow of death but his personality is also very playful and cat-like. His deadliness is portrayed by his skin and intense eyes. His playfulness is shown by his eyes widening and his cat-like movements. The variety of expression is something I looked at while designing my own covers.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
The dragon in the 7th Harry Potter film is very different to the Hungarian Horntail in the 4th film or Norbert in the 1st. This dragon has been beaten and abused for a long time and that is shown through the sickly pallor of its skin and how tight its skin is over its bones. The effects here reflect the health of this dragon which is something I’ve not seen that often other than some having battle scars. I really like how the effects tell the story of the dragon and it’s something to reflect on within my own work.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The Hungarian Horntail was done fantastically in this film. The description in the book focuses heavily on its size, ferocity and spikes which all came across really well in the film.
Game of Thrones
We follow the three dragons in Game of Thrones as they grow and the effects team does a very good job of showing their ageing process. Because all of the dragons I am working with are different ages, some are hatchlings, some are ancient, I thought game of thrones would be a good reference to see how young and old dragons differ from each other. When they are young, Danerys’ dragons don’t have many spikes or sharp teeth because they haven’t fully formed. Their skin looks like it isn’t very hard and they’d feel like a lizard. As they grow older, their teeth and spikes grow bigger and look sharper as well as their skin looking harder and thicker. They also appear to have more personality as they grow and experience the world. Drogon, the black dragon is shown to be quite cruel and bloodthirsty where as the other two, Rhaegal and Viserion are shown to be gentler and more loyal to Danerys. This is one of the few times where you can hold two dragons from the same universe side by side and compare their personalities which was really helpful when discerning how to show the difference in personality between Saphira, Thorn, Glaedr and Firnin.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
This was a terrible adaptation of my favourite of The Chronicles of Narnia but that aside, the effects on Eustace in dragon form were stunning. I particularly looked at the detail around the eye in this shot because the eyes are what I want to focus on when making my books. There is so much intricate detail in this shot. Every individual pore on his skin is shown as well as all of the wrinkles and texture which I really loved. The eye itself has Eustace’s humanity shining through even though he is in dragon form. It has a lot of personality to it and shows all of his sadness about being trapped in dragon form. This level of detail and emotion is definitely something I want to come across in my own work.
While this is an absolutely awful book to movie adaptation, the effects on Saphira are really good and she is exactly as I imagined her in the book. This was one of the most important ones to look at as this is the film adaptation of the first book in the series I am creating. More like a bird than a lizard, Saphira’s skin looks more feathered than scaled which is something I really liked here. She strikes the balance between gentle and powerful really well and her personality comes across in her face and her eyes really well.
Looking at these representations of dragons has been really helpful in working out how to portray personality and skin type and I will keep it in mind whilst making my books.